Montana Wild Filmakers Busted By FWP, NFS

A well-known local film company is in hot water for not following laws in film and fishing while shooting a piece on fly fishing for Montana’s bull trout, which is only legal on a few waters in the state. After a two year investigation Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the US Forest Service are throwing the law at Montana Wild. Read on for the full story from our friends at Angling Trade.

By Geoff Mueller, via Angling Trade

If you commit a crime—and hope to get away with it—best not film those exploits and share them with the public. Case in point, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) and the United States Forest Service’s (USFS) last week released results from a two-year investigation targeting Montana Wild, the Missoula-based flyfishing film company that did just that.

Montana Wild produces hunting and fishing videos on its website and is owned and operated by brothers Zach and Travis Boughton. Their films are also known entities in the flyfishing community. They’ve been featured in the Simms Shoot Out, on The Drake Magazine’s Flyfishing Video Awards, and as part of the Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T) lineup in recent years. But it was video footage from a 2013 trip to Montana’s Bob Marshall wilderness that has recently become Montana Wild’s pièce de résistance—for all the wrong reasons.

The saga started when the Boughton brothers and associate Anthony Von Ruden violated federal law by venturing onto USFS lands to shoot a commercial film on bull trout fishing without proper permits. And they violated state law, 38 citations total, by illegally targeting bull trout in South Fork Flathead River tributaries on the same trip. Perhaps worse, sifting through more than 2,200 videos obtained by search warrant produced evidence of Montana Wild “…messing with the fish for 15, even 20 minutes,” said FWP Criminal Investigator Brian Sommers. “There were some they’d release, that would just go right to the bottom and lay there.”

Montana Wild has since been slapped with close to $6,000 in fines. The Boughtons pleaded guilty to 11 federal citations involving illegal commercial filming in and near the Bob Marshall Wilderness. They, and Von Ruden, also plead guilty to 38 state violations for intentionally fishing for bull trout in closed waters, failing to immediately release bull trout, and failing to report a bull trout on the required FWP catch card.

In addition, this series of failures led to a film trailer on bull trout fishing in “the Bob” that was quickly dropped from the Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T) website after “…we learned that Montana Wild hadn’t procured a permit to film in the wilderness,” says F3T spokesperson Ryan Thompson.

In a statement released this week on their website, the Boughtons. . . Read the entire story HERE

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4 Responses to Montana Wild Filmakers Busted By FWP, NFS

  1. Mark says:

    If they violated fishing regs – fine ‘em. Fine the crap out of ‘em.

    The issue I have is the federal government’s extortion via permitting to take pictures and video – it’s the people’s lands – and the people should be able to use it and take photos and videos, and yes, photos and videos for commercial purposes even, without needing a permission slip from Nanny Government. If you run a blog and take video inside a wilderness area and publish that – you could run the risk of the feds coming down on you. Even if you’re not monetizing the blog right now – if you monetize it later, you could be screwed if the content is still up. Same if you upload it to YouTube.

    If a permitting system must be in place, the permits should be available for free or next to nothing, and should be available 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.

    Fly fishing should not be viewed as or made into an extreme sport – and hopefully the film makers realize this and knock it off. We don’t need the biggest fish, or underwater fight footage, and we certainly don’t need to see fish held out of water for minutes on end or fought over and over to get just the right shot.

    • Greg Thomas says:

      I’m in agreement with you here. You violate the law you should be fined. I, too, don’t like the permitting system for photographing or videoing on public lands, but I doubt we’re changing that law anytime soon. My biggest issue with this entire thing is that Montana Wild has attempted to place blame elsewhere by saying that the Drake led them to be in violation. That’s no excuse whatsoever. You don’t rely on a magazine to be the authority on game and fish laws. You rely on the actual regulations and if you don’t know them inside and out you pay for it. This is not the Drake’s fault. It’s Montana Wild’s. Nobody else’s. That’s my take. Thank you for tang the time to express your opinion. Anyone else?

      • Mark says:

        Yep – every state publishes their regulations in paper form, and most have the regs available online. My experience – which is mostly in Oregon – is that if you have a question, a quick phone call or email to either the state wildlife department, or the law enforcement agency in charge of fish & wildlife law enforcement (which in Oregon is the State Police) you can get your questions answered very clearly. If you aren’t sure if a body of water is open to angling or isn’t open to angling for a certain fish – it’s far better to err on the side of “nope” than to just do it. And there is NO excuse for not knowing the regulations for the water which you fish. Relying on the word of any publication aside from the official regs is asking for trouble. Relying on TV, Internet, or the friend of a friend of your third cousin Sal who heard it from his buddy Jim doesn’t cut it.

        And while I don’t like the permitting system or the regulations/laws behind it – the law is the law and you either abide or you’re an outlaw. If you’re going to be an outlaw – have the balls to admit it and don’t try to weasel out of it. An honest outlaw is more deserving of respect than a liar. I’m not saying that Montana Wild and the folks behind it are liars – I’ve only read three stories so far, two slanted against them, and one was their own statement about the incident, but it did seem like they were shifting blame for what they are accused of – both from the permitting for filming aspect and for the alleged fishing violations.

        The accusations of inappropriate handling of game fish (I can’t think of any other way to describe it) by landing a fish, letting it go, and fighting and landing it again to gain underwater shots or hero footage – if true – piss me off. I don’t mind handling a fish to get a picture or a video, if care in handling is taken to keep the fish out of water as little as possible, and to avoid fingers in gills, avoid the fish beating itself to death on rocks/docks/boats – but what they are accused of in their fish handling would indicate to me a lack of respect for the game, and a lack of respect for their fellow anglers.

        Every bad thing any particular group does will get spread around, reported on, and ridiculed far faster, and far wider than the good acts of said group. Look at the national hubub regarding a small minority of bad cops – there’s hundreds of thousands of cops in the country who do good every day, and who aren’t out abusing the public. A few knuckleheads make the nightly news and they make it seem like every cop is out to harass and abuse you. You show a bunch of fisherman who are out poaching, abusing fish, and breaking the law and it isn’t hard for some media outlets and groups like PETA to paint us ALL with that brush. It’s no different than the division seen in our own ranks as anglers – fly anglers have a reputation for being snobs, bait anglers have a reputation for being uncouth and ignorant, and hardware anglers are all gung ho metal flake bass boat driving maniacs. Or at least that’s the stereotype and the mentality I’ve seen time and again in discussion forums, and seen and heard first hand while fishing and talking to other anglers. A handful of knuckleheads and it’s easy to spread the hate. I don’t want to get lumped in with law breakers, and I want my boy to enjoy the sport and the resource we enjoy today when he gets older. If we, as a collective, are not careful we’ll find ourselves regulated out of more areas, or out of entire fisheries.

        Sorry for the tangent.

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